Prof. Petar Mitev in the intergenerational dialogue between sociologists in Bulgaria
Prof. Rumiana Stoilova,
Chair of the Bulgarian Sociological Association
The role of prof. Petar Mitev in the intergenerational dialogue between sociologists in Bulgaria is superbly represented in the publication “To Shift Barriers: Disciplines, Epochs, Generations”, an edited volume of academic texts in the fields of sociology and political science.
The editors, prof. Svetla Koleva, prof. Pepka Boyadjieva, prof. Petya Kabakchieva and prof. Rumyana Kolarova invited 29 scientists from different generations and disciplines, united by their interest in the work of prof. Petar-Emil Mitev. I am convinced that the volume, in addition to showing our respect and appreciation for the contribution of Prof. Petar Mitev to Bulgarian sociology and the study of politics, will be permanently featured in the pedagogical toolkit that we are to use in training and guiding future sociologists and political scientists. This impressive volume will serve as a reference guide for those of us, who are looking for a point of reference on all key sociological debates.
In the spirit of intergenerational continuity and in my capacity as the current President of the Bulgarian Sociological Association, I go back and reread the texts of Prof. Mitev from the period when he was the president of the BSA. In his 1991 speech he claimed that the task of the Association is “qualification” – a response to the need for our colleagues to seek professional fulfillment in a dynamically changing social environment.
In 1995 prof. Mitev spoke about the BSA and about the sociological point of view, about the scientific discipline “sociology of sociology” . It is very interesting for me to return to the main functions of the BSA that he highlights at that time in order to assess how far we have come today and what remains a challenge for the professional community, to what extent we have fulfilled his expectation at the time then about the “optimistic outlook” for the BSA.
BSA’s main purpose, Mitev holds, is to consolidate the sociological community. His diagnosis is as follows: “sociology turns out to be a profession with too blurry and easily crossed boundaries” (Mitev, 2016:93). That is true. This is a challenge for our profession today as well. The principle of development through competition and internal professional regulation through a Code of Ethics are both a fact. A Code of Ethics has been adopted, but its application remains not particularly effective.
I would like to point to the particularly important, but not yet realised goal of the BSA – assisting the creation of a National Sociological Archive as a condition for optimal professional activity. Without it, in the words of professor Mitev, “Sociology loses the prerequisite which is the basis for all progress: amassment, accumulation” (Mitev, 2016:94). Featuring the archive database for the social sciences in the national research infrastructures should become a priority for all sociologists and political scientists, both academics teaching at university departments and conducting research at BAS, as well as those at social research agencies, the civil sector and ministries. Only by joining forces will we be able to accomplish this important goal of the BSA. Its realization will benefit intergenerational dialogue and preserve the potential of social science, such as empirical data and publications, which are currently scattered and inaccessible to a wider audience.
At the Ninth Congress of the BSA and its accompanying annual conference in 1999, 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, professor Petar Mitev posed the question of how the BSA fits into the broader context of transformation; he problematized sociology as the subject and object of social critique. Moreover, alongside the already established in previous BSA Congresses goals, he added the critical goals of consolidation, institutionalization, of civic stances, and of scientific communication within the professional community. “The critical function of sociology is to place relevant issues… in the context of systemic relations and variants of social development. Then both political bubbles and mass illusions become visible. And it is then that criticism does not turn into nostalgia, self-flagellation or catastrophic attitudes” (Mitev, 2016:111).
I could go on citing the texts of professor Mitev about sociology and the professional association of sociologists, but I need to mention his outstanding contribution to the research of youth in the changing Bulgarian society of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and the first decades of the 21st century. As if from a “sociological observatory”, he analyzed, with his imagination and insight, “what and how is transmitted from generation to generation” and “drew conclusions about the nature and perspective of social development itself”. Again, his warning that studying young people ‘opens a heuristic, but not an unproblematic path to the secrets of society’ is important (Mitev, 2016: 290).
Thank you, professor Mitev, for your imagination and talent, for your perseverance in advocating for sociology as a science in Bulgaria and beyond. I would like to join Ivan Szenelyi in wishing the celebrant: May you live until 120, dear professor Petar-Emil Mitev! Wishing you good health and a long life! Remain just as engaged and dedicated to the rationalization of social life!
 P-E. Mitev, 2016. Bulgarite. Sotsiologicheski pogledi. Iztok-zapad. The archive of the Scientific Institute for the Studies of the Youth has disappeared without a trace, and by the looks of it, it has been “destroyed”, according to professor Mitev, 2016: 105. The archive of the National Center for Study of Public Opinion is also missing or unusable.